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Saturday, July 13, 2013
I have read too many eulogies that are blurred in between the lines with unshed tears for those animal comrades who no longer walk among us, not in any discernible form anyway. So this is a tribute to my closer-than-a-noonday-shadow companion, who deserves much more than the few feeble words of gratitude I can muster while he is still on this Earth, still beside me.
Just before the turn of the last century, a blue-eyed kitten entered my life. Severe clinical depression entered that year, too — the proverbial 8 gazillion-pound gorilla. A King Kong that sat on my soul. It was, on the surface, a most unfair pairing. In one corner this monstrous beast, and in the other, this 8-ounce piece of fluff, with a piercing meow-howl even at the tender age of 6 weeks.
Family members thought I needed him, though I wondered how on Earth I was going to take care of this small being. Little did I know his unstated mission was to take care of me.
He grew into this silken creature of ivory, with face, ears, tail and paws limned in shades of ebony — all Siamese feline down to his stubborn — and I hasten to add, delightful — personality.
I named him Jude in honor of the Beatles classic “Hey, Jude.” And yes, when told his name, people do sometimes sing to him. They can’t help it, obviously.
It took Jude a while to get the lay of the land, but afterward he became this heat-seeking missile, guided by a unique system — comprised of empathy and other values known only to him. He seems advanced enough to read thoughts and comprehend my illness better than anyone else on this planet.
Right about here is where I should describe how Jude has helped me deal with depression. But the revelations are too many, too personal, cutting too close to the heart and bone-marrow. The scientific world, while offering armloads of “approved” drugs, routinely ignores such stories anyhow, sniffs that they are mere anecdotes that are not empirical, but ephemeral. Suffice it to say (and to paraphrase Emily Dickinson) sometimes “hope is the thing” with fur and a purr.
Hey, Jude. How can I put this? You have been found out. You are no mere cat, and your slanted E.T. eyes are a dead giveaway. You are no Earthling either, but a benign magi from a faraway star. You come bearing the gifts of unconditional compassion, of a nonjudgmental nature. These are two traits that we humans, in the most hidden, and unpoked corners of our psyches, cannot lay claim to. I would certainly never insult you by trying to anthropomorphize you in any form. It’s as if you can see clearly what we dull-sighted humans can only see “through a glass darkly.”
So back to a past future, when I had this vision about giving him his due while alive. In October, the vision blew apart. The vet’s prognosis: grim, with only a small part of one kidney working. For 12 straight days, Jude would not even look at food or water — for 12 straight days, kept alive only by fluids via an IV. Also he had tested positive for feline leukemia, which had sneakily leaped over his inoculations against it.
When I picked out his grave site on the 12th day on an afternoon bright with autumnal flame, to my numbed eyes the landscape was unbroken by such dank and dark places. But on the 13th day, something loosed its deadly grip, a cruel hook was removed, something in the universe paused as though some celestial governor had stayed his execution at one minute to midnight.
He began to eat, behaving as if the thought of dying had never entered his mind. Perhaps it hadn’t.
“Maybe six months,” the vet had opined just a few days before. “Maybe he will make it another six months with a kidney transplant. If you could afford it.”
Now in this jungle-green July, I look at the little miracle from old Siam and marvel that he is here, seeming to have never missed a beat in the fascinating rhythm of his life. Since that nightmarish October, it is hardly surprising that I dream repeatedly of him dying. But I wake to find Jude anchored on my bed, still alive, sans kidney transplant or any other kind, given only an endless IV of pure love.
Death’s provenance remains in a dream, for now.
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